Thursday, April 1, 2010

While Millions are out of Work, State Employees Get Raises

While millions are out of work, State employees get raises. Taxpayers are losing their jobs these raises will only cause them to lose their jobs in the future. Once the taxpayers run out of money they will not be able to afford to pay the state workers.

Spelling and grammar errors as well as typos are left as an exercise for my readers.

The following piece appeared on

New York State Workers to Receive $478 Million in Raises

Gannett Albany Bureau

ALBANY-Despite its fiscal woes, the state is scheduled to pay $478 million in raises to state employees in mid-April, records show.

Union workers are set to receive a 4 percent raise that totals more than half of the $478 million cost to taxpayers in the 2010-11 fiscal year, which starts April 1. The raise is part of the fourth and final year of contracts approved in 2007.

The rest comes through so-called step or performance increases that employees can receive for longevity in a position or advancement, records from the state Comptroller's Office show.

Federal aid covers almost half of the salary increases, state officials said, but the state's cost will total about $250 million, up 39 percent from the roughly $180 million the state paid in raises in the current fiscal year.

The raises for public employees and teachers, which some groups and legislators estimate will total $1 billion this year, have prompted some lawmakers to call for a wage freeze as the state grapples with a $9.2 billion budget deficit.

"I think New York state is in a state of emergency. This is the worst period of economic downturn since the Depression," said Assemblywoman Sandra Galef, D-Ossining, Westchester County. "So I think it would be something we should absolutely consider that there be a freeze on all salaries for all public employees."

Galef was one of four Democratic Assembly members who wrote a letter Wednesday to the teachers' union asking for the wage freeze, saying it would save money and jobs. School groups said schools face about 14,000 layoffs if $1.4 billion in education cuts are adopted in the coming fiscal year.

Some unions have rejected calls for a wage freeze, saying the sides lawfully negotiated the contracts in 2007 with then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

"The point is it was all negotiated in good faith," said CSEA spokesman Stephen Madarasz said. "The whole concept of negotiating is that you enter into an agreement that both sides are able to live up to."

The 4 percent bump follows 3 percent increases the prior three years. About 150,000 employees are scheduled to receive a 4 percent raise, and 45,000 employees are slated to receive a performance advance, with some getting both.

It's unclear, state officials said, whether a late state budget, which is due April 1 but not expected to be adopted on time, will impact the raises.

Instead of a wage freeze, unions and school groups said they have offered ways the state could raise revenue and save money, such as limiting the use of private contractors.

One recommendation calls for the state to collect taxes on Wall Street stock transfers, which are now rebated back to the brokers. The groups said the state could collect more than $3 billion if the state collected 20 percent of the rebate.

"We've been giving very solid, doable ways for the state to save money," said Darcy Wells, spokeswoman for the Public Employees Federation.

Lawmakers are rejecting a proposal by Gov. David Paterson to suspend property-tax rebates for homes worth more than $1.5 million. Last year, Paterson and lawmakers increased income taxes on the wealthy.

Richard Iannuzzi, president of the New York State United Teachers union, said lawmakers continue to seek sacrifices from working families, but there are a "lot of breaks given to or continued for the wealthy."

In a response letter to the Democratic assembly members Friday, Iannuzzi said unions have made concessions and are fighting for state aid, guaranteed in a prior lawsuit against the state, for schools.

Some teachers' unions this week, in fact, agreed to freeze salaries or renegotiate contracts. In Nyack, Rockland County, the union agreed to a salary freeze, while in Eastchester, Westchester County, the union reopened its contract and agreed to lower raises.

Paterson is seeking $250 million in concessions from unions in the coming fiscal year. For the past two years, he has frozen wages for non-union employees in executive branch agencies.
But some managerial positions are getting step raises, totaling about $10 million, in the coming fiscal year, records show. Those increases had been frozen last year.

E.J. McMahon, executive director of the conservative Empire Center for New York State Policy, criticized Paterson for not doing enough to get concessions from unions amid the state's economic downturn.

He said raises create an "inequitable picture" when private-sector wages are generally stagnant and the state's unemployment is at record levels.


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